Job Hunt

Five Ways to Calm Your Nerves Before a Job Interview

Even the smallest preparations can have a tremendous impact on your mindset.

In the weeks and months before he landed his current job, Ben was exhausted. His nights were spent applying for jobs. His days were split between doing actual work and sneaking off to respond to calls from prospective employers.

Tired as he was, he found it impossible to sleep the night before any job interview. Some habits helped slightly: getting into bed early and listening to white noise. But they weren’t enough, so he decided to try a new approach. For the remainder of his interviews, Ben would spend the night prior doing two of his favorite things: watching Seinfeld and ordering in a specific sushi meal—one dragon roll and two tuna avocado rolls, with extra ginger. While the ritual didn’t guarantee him an eight-hour rest, it did help put him in a happier mindset. “I had to change something about my process, so I just made it more about stuff I love,” he says.

Even veteran professionals still do a few rounds of deep breathing or wear a lucky shirt before big interviews. 

It’s quite common for people to be stressed before going into a job interview—so much so that it’s no wonder there are 33.7 million Google search results for how to relax before an interview. Even veteran professionals, who’ve been in the workforce for decades, may still do a few rounds of deep breathing or wear that lucky shirt before big interviews. Below, some ideas on how to calm your mind before the questions start flying

Rethink the scenario.

One of the best ways to get out of the interview anxiety is to reframe the situation. “Stop telling yourself it’s an interview. Think of it as a meeting with a potential client,” says executive coach and career strategist Lindsay Broder. “When you walk in there, your only job in that meeting is to figure out what the client’s needs are, and to convey how you can fill that need.” Not only does this approach help people feel more in control, it helps them prepare better questions for the interviewer, Broder says. 

Write a mini cheat sheet—by hand.

If you’ve done your interview prep correctly, you know a lot about the company and have a good sense of how you’re going to position your own skills. Career professionals suggest you summarize your most important notes on a small sheet of paper (use keywords instead of full sentences). You can include hard-to-remember facts, like the names of the people you’re going to be meeting, and the company’s sales last year. And while it takes more time, write these notes instead of typing them. Studies show that writing things out by hand helps you remember them better. 

Pack your ‘just in case’ items.

You can decide what these may be for you, but career pros say there are three that are universal: a snack, tissues, and dental floss. During the interview, you don’t want to have to worry about your stomach growling, your nose running, or having poppy seeds in your teeth. “My hands get clammy when I’m nervous, so I like having a way of discreetly drying them off,” says Laura, a journalist in New York City who uses this technique when she’s in interviews.

Laugh it out.

There’s no reason you have to sit in silence before the interview—unless, of course, that calms you down. Instead, spend a few minutes talking to a friend or listen to a funny podcast. After all, laughing is scientifically proven to release endorphins, which can only help you feel good as you head into the interview.

Squeeze your legs.

OK, we know this one sounds weird. But if you have shaky hands (either from nerves or too much caffeine), try this trick: squeeze your thigh muscles to steady yourself. This technique can be used not only before the interview, but also during it, should a question arise that makes the tremor resurface. And unlike bawling your hands into fists, which also stops the shaking but can be seen, this one is completely masked by clothing.  

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